Belmont Club

We are gremlins from the Kremlin

The Los Angeles Times says that Kim Jong Il’s rocket didn’t make orbit. But North Korea claims it as a step forward anyhow. Is the glass half-empty or half-full? And what are the lessons to be learned?

Reporting from Seoul — Who cares if the whole world is calling North Korea’s weekend space launch a dud – that the regime’s vaunted communications satellite probably now sits somewhere on the Pacific Ocean floor? … A release from North Korea’s state-run press today said Kim watched the launch at the nation’s Satellite Control and Command Center and has deemed the effort “successful.”

Winston Churchill once said that “there is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” One interesting question is whether the lack of results on the part of North Korea’s effort — the throwing off of the aim that sustains the exhiliration — can be credited in whole or part to the efforts made to thwart the North Korean dictator. It has often been claimed that sanctions against North Koreans are useless. The Asia Times, for example, claimed that neither Seoul nor Beijing have wholeheartedly backed American efforts to slow down Pyongyang’s efforts to obtain WMDs or their delivery systems.

By now it has become patently clear. No international sanction regime against North Korea worthy of its name is in place, and there is no chance that such regime will emerge in future. China, Russia and, above all, South Korea do not want to punish North Korea for going nuclear. This shows a major divergence of interests between the United States and Japan, on one side, and three other major players – China, Russia and South Korea – on other. The US, being the sole superpower, has to think globally, and North Korean nukes do not bode well for the global future.

Martin Landsberg and John Feffer argued that sanctions actually increase the chances of war. In their view, what North Korea needed was more aid, economic development and, so that its hostility against America would abate and they would turn to more wholesome activity.

Although they enjoy some measure of support from the international community, the sanctions levied against North Korea only add fuel to the fire. Moreover, they exemplify a disturbing pattern of the Bush administration’s non-diplomacy toward Pyongyang. The economic campaign begun in 2005 pushed North Korea toward accelerating its nuclear program. The more recent sanctions, if implemented with naval interdiction, increase the risk of war.

Numerous arguments were made to the effect that sanctions were useless. And yet the question must be asked: if the North Korean missile test was a failure, as the LA Times reports, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the “useless” and “provocative” sanctions contributed to that failure? And if the sincerest form of flattery is imitation, what do recent statements by the Obama administration to sanction North Korea imply? The WSJ reports:

The Obama administration blasted North Korea’s decision to launch a rocket this weekend in defiance of United Nations resolutions and vowed a coordinated international response. … Ms. Rice declined to say what U.N. actions or potential sanctions the U.S. might be willing to support, but said U.S. officials were working closely with foreign officials, particularly those in Asia.

In an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that was taped before the launch, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said it would be a “terribly bad mistake” for North Korea to launch the rocket.

“There is no doubt that there must be consequences if they take that step,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The president has and will confer with our allies, will go to the UN Security Council, will pursue a tough response.

If it were really true that sanctions have counterproductive in the past and that they contributed to the risk of war then why should the Obama administration repeat the mistakes of the reviled George W. Bush? One reason is that they may not have been mistakes.

The Left knew all about gremlins when they were from the Kremlin. Just ask Warner Brothers.  Any resemblance between the Leader and the Dear Leader is purely coincidental.